The Hyundai Sonata Smaht Pahk is friggin’ yoosless in Boston

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Charlestown 4runner Kamil Kaluski

Hyundai’s Super Bowl Smaht Pahk commercial got a lot of attention. Self-parking is an ingenious feature that would surely be helpful to many who have issues or frustrations parking their cars. However, in the case of Hyundai’s Remote Smart Parking Assist, the system will not solve your every parking woe. Remote Smart Parking Assist doesn’t allow the car to quite park itself; it simply allows the driver to move the car forward or reverse several feet. That’s it.

Why this is useless in Boston is painfully obvious to anyone who lives there. The vast majority of parking is parallel parking on the street. I can’t really think of many streets that have angled or perpendicular parking as shown in the commercial. Furthermore, to use the “Smaht Pahk” feature, the car would need to be in a straight line with the spot, blocking the roadway, while the driver gets out and presses the button. This would generate instant yelling, cursing, and honking in Boston. Yelling “it’s got Smaht Pahk” back at Sully wouldn’t do you much good.

Let’s investigate the parking situation in various Boston neighborhoods to see if there is a spot in which the Sonatar’s smaht pahk system could come in handy. We’ll start in Beacon Hill.

Mt Vernon Street Beacon Hill
Google Maps

This is Mount Vernon Street in the Beacon Hill section of Boston. Beacon Hill is one of the most picturesque sections of Boston, where the narrow streets are surrounded by old brick buildings and a few standalone houses. Businesses are pretty much limited to restaurants and boutique stores, but there are a pharmacy and a hardware store that have been around for roughly a century.

Apart from a handful of very pricey garages, most parking here is limited to the street. Most of that parking requires a residential sticker, too. Charles Street is all metered parking, limited to two hours. All of these spots, though, are parallel, thus rendering the Sonata’s function useless here.

If you find yourself in Beacon Hill, grab a beer at the Sevens Ale House. The Paramount is an amazing breakfast place. If you fancy a fancy dinner, 75 Chestnut is the place for you. Need to grab some outside pictures? Head to the iconic Cheers bar.

Beacon Street Back Bay
Google Maps

Heading to Back Bay on Beacon Street, there is nothing but parallel street parking. With the newly created bikes lanes, much of that parking is among designated spots in the middle of the street, not unlike in Manhattan. Smaht Pahk is, once again, useless. However, there are some exceptions.

Between each street there are “public alleys,” basically narrow-access roads that allow residents access to garages or assigned spots. They also serve as short-cuts when the city is grid-locked. The parking spots in these alleys are often perpendicular to the alley, so the Smaht Pahk system may work here, right?

Back Bay Public Alley Pic
Google Maps

Wrong. These alleys are so narrow that maneuvering the car perpendicular to the spot is pretty much impossible. Further, while Hyundai vehicles have become truly impressive in recent years, the people living in these neighborhoods prefer more glitzy rides.

When you find yourself in Boston’s Back Bay, walk around the Public Garden (Gahdens, technically) and take a stroll down Commonwealth Avenue. Newbury Street, with its shops and restaurants, is Boston’s Madison Avenue. The Boston Public Library is a must-see, and the view from the Prudential Tower observatory is the best in the city.

Hanover Street North End
Google Maps

Boston’s North End is one of the oldest and most historic areas of the city. Churches, burial grounds, even The Paul Revere House are all here, set among brick architecture along painfully narrow streets. Parking here isn’t simply difficult; it’s nearly impossible. Vast majority of street spot are residential spots, with only a few metered spaces sprinkled in between commercial spots along Hanover Street.

Simply avoid driving here. Just bang a U-ey and park at the Government Center Garage or get here by a cab or the Green Line trolley (Haymarket stop). This must-see section of the city is best enjoyed on foot. Grab a slice at Regina Pizzeria—it’s some of the best I have ever tasted. Even if there is a line out the door, it’s worth the wait. Afterwards, chase your pizza down with cappuccino and a cannoli at Caffe Vittoria.

Shawmut Ave
Google Maps

To be fair to Hyundai, we should visit the exact street on which the commercial was shot: Shawmut Avenue in the South End. Specifically, 268–270 Shawmut Avenue. The obvious problem here is that, unlike in the commercial, there is no angled street parking here. Like the rest of the city, all the spaces are parallel. The commercial lied! And David Ortiz recently sold his house in Boston’s wealthy suburb of Weston.

Charlestown Monument
Google Maps

Charlestown is the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill. There is a huge monument, which looks a lot like the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.; walk up its 294 steps and you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views of the downtown skyline. After your hike, replenish yourself with a bowl of amazing clam chowder at The Warren Tavern. George Washington and Paul Revere used to frequent this, the oldest tavern in Massachusetts.

Shockingly, during daylight hours street parking is readily available around the tourist areas, admittedly with a two-hour window limit. Like the rest of the city, however, Charlestown all parallel street parking on old narrow streets. Charlestown adds the additional challenge of being a giant hill.

Charlestown 4runner
Kamil Kaluski

Let’s move further out of downtown to Dorchester. Once its own city that predated Boston, the large, six-square-mile neighborhood is known for its diverse population. It is the home of UMass, Franklin Park Zoo, JFK Presidential Library, and the Boston Latin Academy—the first college preparatory high school for girls in the United States.

Since there’s only one subway line in the area (plus buses), you’ll need a vehicle to get around the Dot. Street parking abounds, but—you guessed it—all the spots are parallel. The good news is that some parking is available at the zoo; unsurprisingly, those lots often fill on the weekends. Given the lack of spot markings, the zoo lot might just be the place where you could squeeze your Sonata into a tight spot between two minivans. Whether that’s advisable is a different matter.

Franklin Park Zoo
Google Maps

The Dorchester neighborhood is changing rapidly. Due to rising housing costs, the once-lower-income residents are getting elbowed further from downtown and the subway. Ethnic areas still exist, such as the Polish Triangle that like I to frequent. Help yourself to some freshly-made bigos and kabanos sausage at the Euromart Deli. Wash it down with some Tyskie beer. 

Columbus Ave Parking
Google Maps

But wait! What is this on Columbus Avenue? Oh my gawd, Becky, it’s angled street parking!

…Except that it mostly isn’t. Once you eliminate the valet-only slots in front of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, plus the various commercial and handicapped spots, finally there are a half-dozen of two-hour, angled spots. Hyundai’s system could actually work for these six spots on this one really wide street!

Government Center Garage
Google Maps

It’s easy to conclude that Hyundai’s Smaht Pahk is friggin’ yoosless in Boston. The only places where it could possibly work are the zoo parking lot and those six spots on Columbus Avenue. This feature is very similar to the equally fraught Tesla Smart Summon. Both systems may be able to move the vehicle out of a tight spot, but only in straight forward or backward moves. It is fair to say that systems like these won’t be impressive until a vehicle can parallel park itself into a spot with less than a foot of access between the other cars… on a hill. Until then, fuhgeddaboudit. Wait, that doesn’t sound right…

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